Last week Harrods boss Michael Ward outlined what Britain needs to do to preserve it’s position in the global marketplace – and it’s all down to our travel hubs: he asserts that we need to develop our airport strategy and fast! Ward describes Heathrow as being ‘full for a decade’ and that our lack of facilities are holding us back when it comes to international trade.
Ward suggests that ‘all of London’s major airports will be full by 2030’ if the government does not act fast and forge ahead with expanding Heathrow – with a much-needed new runway, for the benefit of our economy
“Fundamentally this is not about aeroplanes or where to build the first full-length runway in the Southeast of England since the 1940s. It is about securing the long-term economic prosperity of our country…our European competitors must think us fools”
Ward suggest that Harrods has long been in favour of expanding the UK’s existing travel hubs as he considers that for us to continue to compete for business it is crucial that air connectivity is maintained. As an island nation, Britain is being left behind as the burgeoning growth in international trade is being directed from the emerging markets.
Asian businesses are choosing other European travel hubs instead of the UK, due to their proliferation of runways and available flights. For example Paris has 50% more flights to China with room for expansion – coupled with a much more efficient visa system that does not require biometric testing. As a result of this efficiency, valuable Chinese retail customers are currently spending eight times more in Paris than in London, as Ward laments:
“Napoleon recognised us as a nation of shopkeepers. It is unfortunate that successive governments have not. “
“With £147bn in economic growth identified and 70,000 jobs created by 2050 I would urge the government to take the difficult decision, disregard the political consequences of a few chagrined MPs and focus on the facts it has been presented with by the experts.”
But what about environmental and financial concerns regarding the new runway – not to mention the noise and inconvenience for those living under areas earmarked for potential new flight paths. It’s not an easy task to administrate – which is perhaps why successive governments have prevaricated for so long. But what is clear that something needs to be done as our airports reach capacity and our competitors begin to take up the slack.